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"Online Course Insurance" With Peter Marshall

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Megan Walker: Hello and welcome to Market Savvy Conversations. My name is Megan Walker and today our very special guest is Peter Marshall, who is an expert on all things insurance. And Peter's been very kind to me over the last few years helping me understand this complex world, which is probably not complicated to you, Peter, but for us lay people, we need your wisdom to help us understand what practice owners can and can't do with online courses in relation to insurance. So Peter, kick us off. Tell us who you are, what you do, where you work, and we'll get the conversation rolling.

Peter Marshall: Thanks Megan. I'm currently the General Manager of Insurance at Mercurien Insurance and that's an interesting business, but my background has been in corporate insurers with QBE and Allianz and Zurich and broker businesses, quite large ones, and also underwriting agencies. The segments that we move across - Psychologists, Counselors, Allied Health, Finance. So there's a lot of background with those sort of industries. But the one thing they all have in common is what you just said. Can you interpret what in this insurance speak actually means? What do they mean when they say this? So that's pretty much where I found I can be of use to people like yourself and your listeners.

Megan Walker: Absolutely. No, we love that we grab someone who speaks plain English and go, Ooh, we need you in our world, Peter. So tell us, you've touched already on the exact sort of people who'll be listening, Psychologists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, we've got some GPs, there'll be some Specialists as well. Typically people who have practices that might be either solo or five, 10, sometimes 20 people in their employ. For those types of private practices, what are the typical insurance products that they would be familiar with that should have onboard already?

Peter Marshall: It goes by many names, but they'll either have a professional indemnity policy, a medical malpractice policy, an entity policy. Okay. Big words once again. But effectively it means policies that cover anything that they're held liable for if it goes wrong in their treatment or their advice or within their practice or once a client comes through their front doors.

Megan Walker: Okay, great. Alright. Now already I'm just hearing that some folks might be listening and going, oh, I haven't updated mine for a while. I don't know if mine is current. So I instantly just want to address that. If they have heard that and thought, crikey, I need to do something about it. Let's do an early segue and then we'll keep the conversation going. So how do people know already if they are covered, if they've got the right sort of products for their practice?

Peter Marshall: Well, a lot of the practitioners in that space will have access to an association product because usually those professionals are members of an association. And an association will appoint an insurance partner and they will have a program for those key policies that a client needs. And as far as finding out is it current, all they need to do is make an inquiry with their provider and the provider can confirm that. But I was keeping away from the pieces of paper that an insurer gives you. When you buy a policy, which people file keep handy in case they need it, but in the documentation that will show the from and the two dates of when the insurance is current.

Megan Walker: Okay.

Peter Marshall: Good. But when in doubt just contact your provider and ask.

Megan Walker: Good advice. Okay. I was just thinking, oh, I wonder if they feel like they've got all of that covered. Okay, good. All right. So thank you for answering that early sidebar. And then as you know, online courses have really taken off since Covid. I've buried myself in that space because I used to create big courses for peak bodies, but now this is in the hands of individual practice owners who are wanting to scale. It's been really hard to get staff, so this is another way they can help their clients and help people on waiting lists as well. But one of the risk areas is just going ahead, creating a course on mindfulness for your clients and not considering the potential insurance ramifications. So over to you. Tell us what people need to know when they're creating online courses in relation to insurance.

Peter Marshall: From the insurance perspective, it's all about risk and that's how insurer sees it. And I get involved in that a bit because a lot of practitioners will ask their insurer, I've created a course or I intend to create a course, it does my policy cover me.

Because it's not the first thing that they will hear is if it's within your scope of practice, then it's covered under the policy. But a course can be different because what shape does it take? Is it general advice? Is it making a determination about someone's state of being? Is it subjective? Is it objective? All of those things. So one of the things we say to other practitioners is you've got to play Pictionary. Pretend you're playing Pictionary and you are describing the course that you've designed or created or intend to. And paint a picture that a, I was going to say a primary school child could understand.

Megan Walker: Lay person

Peter Marshall: Lay person could understand, so assume they know nothing about it and you are trying to give them a picture of why it exists, how it works, and what happens at the end. That's the part that the insurer focuses on because they're all about risk. What their big concern is at the end of that course is the person who went through the course going to think that they've gained a skill, going to think that they've gained an insight. Is that insight general in nature or is it specific? And they're the things that they want to know, but you've also got to remember that the insurance person that they're asking is an insurance person of varying levels of experience and they're sitting at a desk and they've got a computer in front of them and they're not a qualified practicing professional who is the person asking the questions. They don't know.

Megan Walker: They dunno.

Peter Marshall: You've got to dumb it down and it's all about explaining the risk and what people will walk away with.

Megan Walker: Oh wow. And this is tricky because I mean I've trained over 200 practice owners now in this space and the courses can range from things like how to breastfeed through to how to gain skills as a carer, relationship skills, understanding your emotions to be a better partner through to vicarious trauma for insurance underwriters, these courses are as different as one to the next. So I'm almost hearing categories like green light, orange light, red light, and are there some in that kind of range that I just said to you that would be more red light than others?

Peter Marshall: There are, and I'm not trying to make it really, really complex, but

Megan Walker: No, please.

Peter Marshall: I used to say when I was learning underwriting that underwriting was an opinion and people form their opinions differently. So I think psychologists are in the perfect space to understand an underwriter if they find the way the mind works because they might explain, you'll have a team of service providers or underwriters in a broking business or at an insurer and say if there's five, you could ask each of those five people about your course and what they think about it. One will say, oh no, I think that's really risky. And one down the other end of the line could say I don't see a problem with it.

Peter Marshall: That's inconsistency of approach is what frustrates customers and I get that, but it's all about the way you present it and the what if and navigating your way to a provider that takes the time to understand your business, sees the picture that you're creating for them and says, yeah, if I've got this clear in my head, I can go source a product for you.

Megan Walker: Yes. Great. Okay, so that story is so critical. And then coming before that story, would you suggest that a look over with a health lawyer is a good idea to assess some of that risk first? Should the course, if it is heading more into that red light area, get it checked over before it's presented to insurance?

Peter Marshall: I think that's a good idea because there's other elements to producing the course that are non-insurance related. And if you're getting advice, it might be about licensing, it might be about trademarking, it might be about copyright. If you're getting that advice first, then insurance is just something that it's gone through a rigorous process because a lawyer will do that and that puts you in a better position to have the insurance discussion.

Megan Walker: Great, great. I love that sequence because also they can be writing disclaimers, have a look over it for a language, make sure that it's not got that inflammatory potential goes through that gate and then to insurance.

Peter Marshall: Yes.

Megan Walker: Again, my filter is if it looks like it's adding skills and capacity and it's helpful and if it's in the green zone it might go straight to insurance, but if it's looking a little bit, oh, could be a bit more risk profile here than head down that legal and then insurance path. That's what I've been suggesting to people anyway

Peter Marshall: And I would agree.

Megan Walker: Cool. Okay, nice few. Because the last thing we want is for people to think it's too punitive because there is an opportunity. We've got so many rural remote people who can benefit from these programs. A diabetes two program that helps you with your understanding. Any sort of diagnosis is going to be so helpful for so many, especially with our rising cost of accessing health one-on-one. This is going to continue being an area, but we've got to get it right. So what about selling overseas? I know I've got some beautiful dream makers who are like, I'm going to create this thing, it's going to sell nationally. I'm going to move to Bali, I'm going to sell it in Canada, US, UK. Give us some reality around jurisdictions.

Peter Marshall: I'm glad you mentioned jurisdictions because it's one of those things that you go, oh no, not jurisdictions until we mention jurisdictions, but the insurance, you can only buy insurance in a jurisdiction that you are operating in and laws around insurance and the distribution of insurance and insurance policies themselves vary from country to country. So each country has its own insurance market and the products that you would buy as a resident of that country are only designed for the country that you're in. Now. People get confused because their policies have a geographical limit. They say, we'll cover you worldwide. And most of them will say excluding the USA and Canada.

People will view that as I can go anywhere because as long as it's not the US and Canada, I'm covered. But it's about how the client or the person buying the course in the country that they're in, the insurance framework that is local to them will respond to a claim and also their legal framework. So the thing you've got to consider is that if you're a business that's resident in Australia, you buy a policy that is an Australian policy, it'll say worldwide, excluding US and Canada, but if an action is brought against you, it will only respond within the Australian judicial judiciary system. An action has to be brought against you within Australia, and that might be inadequate for a practitioner or the person who's selling the course. If an action is brought against them overseas, there might be a gap.

Megan Walker: Right. Woo. Give me the example of that. I mean, I'm thinking in my head that there was a psychological help at home type program that someone did. They thought it was going to improve their anxiety, it didn't. They want to sue the person who's created the program. Program is owned by an Australian psychologist, but the person is in the UK. So what can happen there?

Peter Marshall: The law in the UK can view that person's grievance differently to Australia. So if the product was local to that country and it was being distributed and that scenario that you are talking about happened, the legal system in the UK might view it a certain way and avoid certain damages. Whereas the Australian system may view it differently again and say, sorry, we don't view that as you have a case under these circumstances. So you've got a difference in the legal position in both countries. And the insurance product usually follows the legal system in each country. You had to choose a country where our legal system is very similar. I mean if you'd say France …

Megan Walker: Okay, France. So what's our advice there? Do we ask our broker to set up other jurisdictions for us or is it a no-go? Is there a workaround?

Peter Marshall: There's a workaround, but it's cumbersome. It means that if you need to define your market, the world's a big place. So if you were at a target market and you were going to say in your example, I'm going to target an audience in the UK, then you might get your insurance broker to source a local policy in the UK.

Megan Walker: Okay.

Peter Marshall: Now that may or may not require you to register a business entity in the UK.

Megan Walker: Got it.

Peter Marshall: And then back to your lawyer again and the legals and the accounting and the tax and the rest of it.

Megan Walker: But you're saying there's a chance.

Peter Marshall: I'm saying there's a chance. It depends how big you dream. I think.

Megan Walker: The reassuring thing is the types of programs people are creating within, whether it's Australian, New Zealand, UK, there's millions of potential audience within a country to buy a program. So we are talking exhausting that audience first, making significant revenue from that, helping thousands and thousands of people and then going, okay, let's go through the proper channels to take this overseas, of which there is good strong evidence, it's going to sell significantly well elsewhere. But not starting with that global in mind.

Peter Marshall: That's right. I mean just outside of insurance for a moment, taking your thought to the next step. If you're going to do identify a market, they might speak the same language, but the culture there might be different. So you might have to modify your course so that it's more relevant.

Megan Walker: Yep. Okay, great. Well, we've definitely covered some blue sky conversation here. Let's bring it back to the practical as we start to wind up, is there anything else that people should know in the basic level of getting started or anything that I should have asked you that I haven't about moving forward with an online course at the Australian level?

Peter Marshall: I think you described it best when you were talking about risk as red light, amber, green. I think it's about the complexity of the course will probably translate into the difficulty of the insurance journey, but it all starts with building the picture. And I think it's a space where you'd look for an insurance broker who specialises in that area to go to the market for you. Because I think there's a lot of practitioners that I speak to that are frustrated when they've tried to do it themselves

They get different answers. They have different levels of success within their journey. But it is frustrating and a time consuming exercise. It is. I'm not saying you have to have a broker, but partnering with someone who knows the market and can understand the client before they go to the market is gold.

Megan Walker: Absolutely. Yeah. I'm a huge believer in find the right person who speaks that world, don't DIY, this sort of thing. It's just not worth it. Stick to what you're good at and let someone stick to what they're good at. And so as we wrap up, we don't want you to get hundreds and hundreds of emails. Peter, where's a good starting point where people can go to if they're wanting to, you've mentioned their peak bodies, would you suggest that that's the next step for people wanting to double check on their insurance and add an online course into their policy?

Peter Marshall: I think it is. I think it is. And I also think that the next level down from that is networking with your peers. So if you have a peer who's already gone through the process successfully, just ask them, how did you go about it? Who did you use? What did you find it? And I think the networking is very important.

Megan Walker: Yeah, great. Love that. Got a few of those in our corner. Peter, thank you so much. This has been amazing. I love it that you speak plain English. It's very hard to take a complex subject and actually distill it down. That's an art, and I appreciate your time and thanks for coming and having a chat with us.

Peter Marshall: Pleasure, Megan. Thank you. 

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